A Butler County judge has ruled there is evidence that a 71-year-old Middletown man raped a fellow nursing home resident and has committed him to a psychological facility.
Gary Eugene Earls, who has limited mental capacity, was arrested by Middletown police after a November incident at Close to Home on Roosevelt Boulevard.
Earls was indicted by a Butler County grand jury on two counts of rape in December and has been held in the Butler County Jail since Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh set his bond at $100,000.
McElfresh has now ordered Earls be committed to Summit Behavioral Health, a facility for mentally ill adults. He will be assessed every two years by the court, according to Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Lindsay Sheehan.
“He will not be in another nursing home facility,” she said.
In March, Earls was declared incompetent to stand trial and deemed not recoverable to sanity for future court proceedings
Prosecutors began to fight to keep control of the case to ensure Earls would not be placed in a facility where he could potentially assault another person.
The issue surrounding what to do with Earls was “a black hole of the justice system,” Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said.
The state asked Butler County Judge Jennifer McElfresh to place Earls in an institution so he could not commit any other crimes. But defense attorney Dennis Adams said a less restrictive option would be more appropriate for Earls.
“(The judge) ultimately has to make a determination that the evidence established that he committed the acts to constitute the criminal offense,” Gmoser said. “It is also a serious offense and the public has an interest in respect to public safety … the state is asking for her to approve his commitment to a mental facility equipped to handle these type of offenders.”
During a three-hour hearing in March, witnesses who worked at the Middletown assisted living facility, a nurse who examined the elderly victim after the incident, forensic scientists and a Middletown police officer who interviewed Earls — all in an attempt to prove Earl committed the crime, even if he couldn’t stand trial.
In an interrogation tape played for the judge, Earls told Detective Jon Hoover he could not read and write when his Miranda rights were read to him, but he said he understood he did not have to talk with officers.
Earls admitted to physically penetrating the 95-year-old woman during the early morning hours of Nov. 17. He said he went into the woman’s room and pulled down his pants. The woman was naked, Earls said.
Hoover pointed out to Earls that the victim had health concerns and could not talk or give consent.
Earls’ response: “She can talk, I heard her.”
Earls told Hoover he grew up in Middletown and has children living in Kentucky. He indicated “the court” placed him in a nursing home because he couldn’t take care of himself.
Dr. Robert Kurzhals, clinical psychologist at the Forensic Evaluation Center, examined Earls and testified he suffers from cognitive defects.
Kurzhals said Earls had not been able to function independently for years and that his memory is “extremely impaired.”
In addition to the cognitive problems, Earls has a history of alcohol and drug abuse, Kurzhals said.
The 95-year-old woman died just weeks after the incident. She suffered from dementia but was alert at times, her daughter said. The daughters who were at the court hearing said their mother had lived at the facility for 10 years and it was home to her.
“She was a fighter,” the older daughter said. “I believe it affected her. She was never the same.”
The women said they wanted to make sure Earls was placed in a facility where he could not hurt anyone else.
“He doesn’t need to be back in a nursing home with regular people,” the older daughter said.